Catholic Diversity

Although I don’t remember it being an issue when I was younger, I now marvel at the fact that I grew up with parents who had a “mixed” marriage. My mother was and still remains a Southern Republican from New Orleans, and my father maintains his roots as a New England Democrat from Worcester. My parents’ Catholic faith was one of their strongest commonalities. I find it ironic that they find common ground in the Catholic Church when the spectrum of perspectives or Catholic “parties” often seems equally—or even more—polarized than the American political system. Controversial issues, such women’s ordination, homosexual marriage and abortion, cause deep divides between members of the Catholic Church. How can Catholics, especially Catholic women from differing experiences and perspectives, worship together and support one another?

During this past presidential election, I asked my dad how he and my mom coped with having such different political views. He first responded jokingly saying, “We just agree not to talk about politics and we know that our votes cancel each other out!” When I pressed him further, though, he admitted that they alternate; they each watched the others’ political convention, they watch Fox News as well as CNN, and they read both The Houston Chronicle and The New York Times. After being in Catholic schools both as a student and an educator for more than 24 years, it seems to me that people frequently—but certainly not always—follow the “we just don’t talk about it” or worse, “we just don’t talk to one another because we know we disagree” approach. If we are all one body but with many parts, how do we go about “walking” together? The image of a three-legged race pops into my mind.

Reflecting on running an individual race versus running in a three-legged race, the partners can choose a leader, or decide to share “the decision-making.” Regardless of how the duo decides to face the challenge of advancing, they must communicate in order to move forward. This analogy obviously has limits—the Church is not in a “race” to the heavenly finish line. Yet it is easy to hear or exclaim, “We merely need dialogue between the differing parts of the body.” I agree that dialogue is needed within the members of the Church. I, however, get frustrated with people from the “other-side,” who seem completely blind to what seems so obviously “the right way” for me. Yikes, this is scary to admit!

The beauty of the Catholic Church is the inclusion of people who see and experience the One, True God in so many different ways and struggle to live in a faithful way. But what happens when the Body leans toward eliminating some of the voices of those parts and allows for only one voice to be heard? I am not suggesting that the church become a democracy, but I do think that silencing voices becomes dangerous. It is challenging to listen to the other side (a challenge that I am working on personally but not necessarily succeeding at very well). If the Body of Christ could be likened to a multi-million-legged race, how is that we could successfully move toward the Kingdom?

M. Nelle Carty has never really been a champion three-legged race contestant, but continues to have hope that one day she can improve those skills. Until then, she is concentrating on her studies in the final year of her Master of Divinity.

Picture taken from: tag/leapfrog/


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